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SMS forwarding 101 

March 27, 2024

Telesign Team

SMS forwarding has been available for some time, yet some may only perceive it as a tool used for passing on funny messages While you can still use it for that purpose, the primary use case for SMS forwarding has evolved over the years, transitioning from merely facilitating chain messages to serving as a personal security feature or a means to quickly communicate with large teams. 

Let’s take a look at some key aspects of SMS forwarding, from how to do it to detecting unauthorized forwarding. Here’s what you can expect: 

Table of Contents

Understanding SMS forwarding 

SMS forwarding is a technology that enables you to resend a message you receive from someone else to another phone number without altering the text. The recipient to whom you forward the message will receive it as you did, seeing both your details and the details of the original sender. 

In addition to serving as an intermediary for communication with your team, there are other significant benefits of the feature Here are a couple of the most noteworthy: 

It’s fast 

SMS forwarding happens quickly and is ideal for sending a message as you received it to other people. It’s even more convenient to forward to an entire team. Speed makes it a much more viable option than calling someone to explain the details or setting up a digital staff meeting. It is similar to forwarding emails, but specifically on a mobile phone. 

Widely supported 

All mobile phones, including non-smartphones, can forward short messages. Therefore, if you use SMS forwarding as a business communications feature, all your customers will have access to it. Additionally, this mobile phone feature is effortless to use. 

The role of virtual numbers in SMS forwarding 

SMS forwarding has grown in use since the inception of virtual numbers.  Initially reserved for communication between friends, forwarding has evolved into a method for customers to communicate with businesses. 

What do virtual numbers have to do with this? 

Virtual numbers can accomplish many tasks. These aren’t actual devices but rather numbers that will act as programmed when they receive specific texts. For example, this feature enables companies to set up virtual numbers that automatically send any received text to an email address in a particular format. 

The possibilities here are limited only by the creativity of the company division setting up the system. Virtual numbers could interpret specific keywords in a text as instructions. Alternatively, they could serve as a barrier of anonymity between your company and the recipient. 

How do you implement SMS forwarding with a virtual number? 

SMS forwarding with virtual numbers is usually part of more intricate systems, like mobile apps or online portals. These interfaces function as filters for SMS forwarding, each equipped with rules dictating actions to take upon receiving texts. The received texts can be for customer service, security, complaints, or other business scenarios. 

While SMS forwarding can be a helpful means of communication, it can also be used for malicious purposes. Scammers might send messages hoping for a response. Unfortunately, they can forward your reply and any associated personal information to other scammers. The best way to deal with these cons is not to respond and report the numbers. However, accidents can happen. So, how do you know when someone forwards your texts? 

Detecting SMS forwarding 

Detecting SMS forwarding is not easy, but there are some signs you can look out for that indicate your SMS conversation is unsafe, including: 

  • You received the text from an unknown number. 
  • Your third-party app flags the number as spam. 
  • The message contains a link. 
  • The text does not include your name or any information that indicates the sender has your account or profile. 
  • The writer asks for personal information. 
  • The content concerns banking errors, order failures, prize winnings, or similar typically used scam tactics. 

The golden rule of thumb is never to respond or engage with unexpected texts from an unknown source, especially if they are seeking personal information.  

What can you do if you suspect malicious SMS forwarding? 

The best course of action is to contact the relevant authorities. Here are the steps you should take when you suspect you’re dealing with scammers: 

  • Block the number: All phones offer the option to block numbers. Utilizing this feature will effectively prevent the blocked number from reaching you again. You can set up bots in your business to add numbers that seem malicious to a deny list and prevent them from interacting with your communication channels. 
  • Forward the scam text to 7726: Forwarding the message to this number helps your wireless provider deal with scam numbers and block their activity. You can set up chatbots to automatically forward suspicious texts to this number, adding another barrier of protection to your business. 
  • Report the number on the messaging app you use: Every messaging app has a report feature specifically implemented to combat fraud. Do not forget to use it. While this doesn’t apply to a business, you can also encourage your staff to report numbers through the proper internal channels. 
  • Report the incident to the FTC at You can set up your chatbots to do this automatically. 

SMS forwarding scams and fraud 

Scammers will exploit any avenue to potentially make money. However, there are some typical SMS scams you’ll want to be aware of, such as: 

  • ‘You’ve won’ scam: These messages deceive recipients into believing they’ve won something and then request a respond with a specific word.  Once they reply, the scammers will forward the details as an active number to whichever party will pay them. Adding business systems that only allow staff to send out SMS from computers adds additional security to prevent them from responding to such messages entirely. 
  • Fake emergency text: These scams falsely suggest someone is in distress, often invoking a sense of urgency. The text will urge the recipient to share personal information or click on a link without providing any concrete details. Engaging in either of these actions could result in your sensitive data falling into the hands of malicious actors. Warning staff and implementing PC-only SMS systems for outgoing texts in your business will help avoid accidental responses to such texts. 
  • Bank error scam: These messages may claim that there is an issue with your bank account or that suspicious activity has been detected.  They may request your usernames and passwords or ask you to click on a link. Any information you provide could potentially be accessed by individuals attempting unauthorized withdrawals from your account.   

How do fraudsters use SMS forwarding? 

Fraudsters employ SMS forwarding in various ways, but the outcomes are never ideal. Examples of how they might exploit this technology include: 

  • Once you respond, these scammers will forward your details to a database of vulnerable targets.  
  • They pass on the information you send to a database containing usernames and passwords. 
  • They establish forwarding using a virtual number through an API to send you messages anonymously. 

Protecting your business and staff from SMS forwarding scams 

The first step is recognizing that text messages need to be more secure. Anyone who sends these messages will have your number and manipulate the text as they see fit.  There is no way to prevent people from altering a message once you send it to them. Therefore, implementing preventative and proactive measures is crucial to safeguarding your staff and business from SMS forwarding scams. 

Here are some methods to better secure your staff and business texting: 

  • Always advise staff not to click on links they receive via text if the message seems even slightly suspicious. Additionally, implementing defensive systems that automatically block links received on the company’s texting platforms is advised. 
  • Block any numbers belonging to scammers. Your IT team can set up systems in your business to block these numbers automatically. 
  • Utilize bots wherever possible to avoid people accidentally responding to dangerous texts. Bots will only respond as programmed, making them the perfect counter to scams. 

We also recommend setting up systems that automatically report potentially fraudulent numbers. By doing so, you might just save other people from dangerous scammers. 

Which tools can I use to protect against SMS forwarding scams? 

Implementing Telesign’s powerful APIs will help protect your business and customers from SMS forwarding scams. Our protection against account takeovers (ATO) is a barrier between SMS forwarding, fraudsters, and your customers. 

ATO can lead to: 

  • Identity theft 
  • Reduced customer engagement 
  • User abandonment 
  • Revenue loss and costly chargebacks 
  • Brand damage and clean-up costs 

Using a multi-layered approach to high-risk or high-value transactions can help prevent customer account compromises. This system will provide you with additional risk and identity signals that can be used when: 

  • Sign-in attempts from new locations, devices, or browsers are detected 
  • Password resets are attempted 
  • High-value transactions on client accounts take place 
  • Suspicious changes are made to account details or personal information 

We also provide multifactor authentication, which helps protect against unauthorized access to your ecosystem and customers’ accounts. 

Protect your business and customers against SMS scams with Telesign 

 Talk to our experts today to integrate Telesign into your business framework, fortifying a secure digital space for both your business and valued clientele.